What I love about this farm: The passion and intentionality of Suzanne, the owner, radiates from her. And their bacon is revelatory.
Reading time: 4 min 22 sec
From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:
reverence, noun rev· er · ence |ˈrev-rən(t)s , ˈre-və-; ˈre-vərn(t)s\
Definition of reverence
1 : honor or respect felt or shown : deference especially : profound adoring awed respect
2 : a gesture of respect (such as a bow)
3 : the state of being revered
4 : one held in reverence —used as a title for a clergyman
Sure, a definition is an easy gimmick to start a blog post, but in this case, it tidily sums up the entire 400-acre farming operation and nearby Reverence Farms Café that Suzanne Karreman, a first generation farmer, started about twelve years ago with some land near Graham that has since blossomed into a family-run enterprise that includes her husband, brother, parents and daughter. They aim to treat their animals, land, and community with reverence, and they do so in both word and deed.
You know those folks who everybody can’t help but like? They’re engaging, they’re passionate about their work and they get things done with a sense of purpose that just seems to radiate from them into everyone they meet. That’s Suzanne.
She’s full of pithy soundbites like, “The byproduct of eating the best bacon of your life should be beauty.” And she’s right…the bacon IS the best I’ve ever tasted in my life and the woods that the pigs cultivate IS beautiful.
It’s all part of their silvopasture and rotational grazing system at the farm that’s creating rich, biodynamic soil for a variety of forage meant for their pigs, beef and dairy cows, turkeys, laying hens, broiler chickens and sheep. (For those that read the Stoney Mountain Farm post and are curious, their breeds are St. Croix and Dorper cross sheep.)
Unlike most dairy operations, they raise all their own dairy calves – beautiful, brown-eyed Jerseys – and keep them with their mothers for about ten months before weaning them, as compared to the normal day or week that dairy calves are allowed to spend with their mothers. It’s not cost efficient to raise male dairy cows for beef production, since the additional time spent on pasture won’t bulk out these boys out as it would beef cattle, like Angus, Charolais or similar. Instead, they produce what they call rose veal, a more humane alternative to veal.
Rest and Restore
The farm system is build around intense periods of working the land and letting it rest to come back better than before. The humans provide oversight and coordination, but it’s the animal herds that are doing the bulk of the cultivating and fertilizing. The animals are even tended by other animals – a dozen dedicated Great Pyrennees dog guardians.
Drawing from the concepts of regenerative agriculture promulgated by Allan Savory and Joel Salatin, the animals at Reverence Farms are left to roam in a concentrated area and moved frequently. They also practice silvopasturing, with one forester who is selectively cutting trees in the woods, allowing light to enter and reach the forest floor, resulting in a well-managed woodland that supports tree growth and forage for animals.
For the happy pigs in the photo, they get to browse on green shoots, grubs, acorns and the like for about five days before being moved to another space. The cows in the photo get moved about once a day. Broilers (chickens raised for meat) are moved to an entirely fresh plot of grass each day.
Suzanne summed up the concept of rotational grazing vs. CAFOs for one of the young kids on our tour by asking him, jokingly, “Did you eat breakfast in the bathroom this morning?” She also shared her philosophy, from Isaiah in the Bible, about plowing and sowing:
Does he who plows for sowing plow continually?(Isaiah 28:23–26)
Does he continually open and harrow his ground?
When he has leveled its surface,
does he not scatter dill, sow cumin,
and put in wheat in rows
and barley in its proper place,
and emmer as the border?
For he is rightly instructed;
his God teaches him.
Suzanne and her team are part of a quiet land revolution, one that is aimed at creating communities in harmony with nature as much as possible; ensuring the triple-bottom line benefits that get recited so often – people, planet, profits. On the micro level, they focus on creating healthy and vibrant “earthworm approved” soils on their own farm. Employees at the farm and café earn a minimum of $12 per hour.
In the wider community, the farm regularly hosts tours to share their practices and knowledge with others, and their products are available for local pick-up, providing a way for even us city-dwellers to choose food produced in a way that promotes land renewal.
As Suzanne put it to us on the tour, “Three times a day you have choice – are you choosing something that nourishes the land and yourself?”
Where to find their products:
Email them via their website